Sidney, Tammy Moorer lose appeals to overturn kidnapping convictions in Heather Elvis case
HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – The couple found guilty in a high-profile kidnapping case in Horry County lost their appeals to overturn their convictions.
The South Carolina Court of Appeals issued opinions on Wednesday for Sidney and Tammy Moorer who were convicted of kidnapping Heather Elvis.
Elvis was last seen or heard from on Dec. 18, 2013.
COMPLETE COVERAGE | Heather Elvis Disappearance and Investigation
It was revealed that Sidney Moorer and Elvis had an affair from July 2013 until late October or early November 2013. Documents show that during the early morning hours of Dec. 18, 2013, Sidney Moorer and Elvis had been in communication. There were also suspicions that Elvis was possibly pregnant when surveillance video from Walmart that morning showed Sidney Moorer buying a pregnancy test. Then around 4 a.m. on Dec. 18, 2013, Elvis’ car was discovered at Peachtree Landing by a Horry County police officer on patrol. Elvis’ body has never been found.
Tammy Moorer was found guilty of kidnapping Elvis in October 2018, while Sidney Moorer was found guilty in September 2019.
Sidney Moorer’s defense team argued the trial court erred in three ways, which led to his conviction on the kidnapping charge: denying change of venue, denying motion for a directed verdict and qualifying Grant Fredericks as an expert in forensic video analysis.
His defense argued that Sidney Moorer’s kidnapping retrial should have been held in Georgetown County, rather than Horry County, because of “social media saturation” and the massive pre-trial publicity in Horry County which might have tainted the jurors. Sidney Moorer’s team made a motion on the first day of his trial in September 2019 to have the trial transferred to Georgetown County, but the motion was denied, according to documents.
The appeals court ruled that the trial court didn’t abuse its discretion in denying Sidney Moorer’s motion. The documents show that the jury pool was carefully examined and that prejudice from pretrial publicity can’t be proven.
In both of Tammy and Sidney Moorer’s appeals, they argued the trial court erred by not granting a motion for a directed verdict. The couple’s defense teams argued that there was no direct or substantial circumstantial evidence that the two kidnapped or conspired to kidnap Elvis.
The appeals court disagreed, stating that prosecutors presented evidence that Sidney Moorer had the motive to kidnap and harm Elvis in order to “appease Tammy’s anger about the affair and avoid any negative consequences of Victim’s possible pregnancy.”
The appeals court also said that the State presented sufficient evidence including cellphone location data of the Moorer’s whereabouts on the morning of Dec. 18, 2013, surveillance video showing what appeared to be the Moorer’s truck going to and from Peachtree Landing, and also video showing the Moorer’s cleaning out their truck and burning rags two days after Elvis’ disappearance.
Tammy and Sidney Moorer’s defense teams also argued that Grant Fredericks should not have been used as a forensic video analyst expert.
Fredericks testified that the headlight pattern and characteristics of the truck seen on surveillance video going to and from Peachtree Landing led him to conclude that it was the Moorer’s truck.
The defense argued that Fredericks’ report and analysis on headlight patterns was unreliable.
The appeals court disagreed and stated that the trial court was within its right to admit Frederick’s testimony and expert opinion.
“Fredericks’ expertise was based on his vast experience with forensic video analysis, as well as the facts that his report and conclusion in this case had been peer reviewed by another certified forensic video examiner and his headlight spread analysis was a peer reviewed technique,” the appeals court opinion stated.
In Tammy Moorer’s appeal, her team also argued that the trial court allowed the admission of sexually-explicit text messages during her trial which were “unduly prejudicial” and improper character evidence.
The state argued that the messages and phone data showed that Tammy Moorer had control of Sidney Moorer’s phone and also showed a motive in the case.
“Although the trial court chastised the State for the putting ‘salty materials that were pretty prejudicial that did get into the defendant’s character’ into evidence, it denied Tammy’s motion for a mistrial,” the opinion states.
The appeals court stated that even if the trial court did err in admitting the messages, it found the error harmless, given that Tammy’s own testimony included “gratuitous and vulgar descriptions of sexual acts.”
The Court of Appeals affirmed both Sidney and Tammy Moorer’s convictions for kidnapping and conspiracy to kidnap.
Both were sentenced to 30 years in prison.
According to the Department of Corrections, Sidney Moorer has a projected release date of March 31, 2044, while Sidney Moorer has a projected release of May 9, 2043.
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